Sunday, April 11, 2010

paddling: everyone knows it's windy... (part 1)

(disclaimer: this is long, so much so that I'll probably break it in half, and not particularly funny, but I'm posting it for myself as much as for anyone else.)

Yesterday (Saturday) I did my 3rd OC1 race of 2010. Which also happened to be my 3rd one man race. Ever. Which I mention because I'm still getting the hang of this small outrigger paddling thing, and conditions easily affect me. Sometimes more than they should. Like they did yesterday.

Going into the race I was anticipating that the conditions would be a factor, and that made me nervous. My previous two experiences were memorable: the first being quite a bumpy ride during which I kept the brakes on nearly the entire race, and the second being a bit nerve-racking because I'd hulied early in the race and was overly cautious as a result. In both cases I'd lost ground to a number of paddlers going downwind. In other words, downwind is not my strong suit. So Friday night I lay awake (over)thinking the coming race. I didn't need sleep, right?

About the race:
  1. it was going to be the longest one-man race I'd done (8mi)
  2. it was scheduled to go from Sandpoint east, around Magnuson Park and down along the west shore of Lake Washington to Webster Point, then back up and back to Sandpoint.
In other words, I was going to be tired by the end, but it would be along a shoreline I was somewhat familiar with. And, assuming "normal" conditions, it would start into the wind and finishing downwind (the same run as the 1/2/10 race).

So yesterday I got to Sail Sandpoint where the race started and finished, and here's what I had to deal with:
  • Things were looking up! The wind was from the north, which meant the downwind was first, and we'd be finishing upwind. I'd have a chance to catch some of the many people who'd be passing me going downwind!
  • Except they'd changed the course. We'd go out to the east for 1/2 mile (wind&swells coming from from our left, the ama side, the most precarious arrangement), then north for 3 1/2 miles (into the wind) and then back south for 3 1/2 miles (downwind), then west for the final 1/2 mile.
  • Which means everyone would pass me on the second 3 1/2 mile section, and I'd straggle in late.
  • Bummer.
  • Plus, it was cold. 37 degrees, even though it was almost sunny (high overcast).
  • And I was in slippers (don't even ask why).
So I hang around stressing about the wind, getting colder and colder, my toes going numb, the wind chop building.... Registration was supposed to be at 9a but they weren't ready until 9.30a. And the race started at 11a. Plenty of time to stress and get overwrought about conditions.

By start time I'd decided that if I was to huli, I'd probably just turn around and come back to shore, simply because I was going to be so cold that I doubted I'd be able to warm up.

The start was lumpy, with all of us sitting there and the wind&chop coming over our amas. I drifted well behind the start line and behind everyone else, lacking confidence and not wanting to get tangled up with anyone else. In the end, I think this tentativeness cost me, but I'm still inexperienced....

And we started!

The whole first 1/2 mile was survival for me. I was paddling poorly, overcompensating to the left, to keep from flipping. Up ahead a canoe turned over. I saw the paddler climb back up. I thought "shit, if someone up front has hulied, what does that mean for me?" I kept paddling, taking short, inefficient strokes, and finally reached the buoy for our first turn. Now I was heading into the wind and the waves.

It was a slog, but at least it felt a bit more stable. If I hadn't hulied in the previous race during the upwind leg, I think I would have been fairly comfortable. In any case, I felt this was my best stretch because it relied more on strength and conditioning and not so much on experience. So I kept pushing, paddling through and banging over waves, getting wet and cold in spite of my 3 layers plus a pfd on top, long neoprene pants, booties, a wool hat and neoprene gloves.

I managed to pass a few people who hadn't gotten too far ahead of me during the first 1/2 mile. Others stayed ahead of me and pulled further away. And we all kept going. On and on and on.

It seemed like the 3 1/2 miles just wouldn't end. I kept looking ahead to see if I could spot canoes coming back toward me. Nope. More paddling. An occasional bump that threatened to lift my ama, spiking my heart rate I'm sure. Trying to remember the fundamentals. (DougN's mantra: fundamentals are your friend!) Reach, power up front. Meanwhile, balancing this with not overreaching, especially on the right because that's how I hulied before.

I caught up with 3 other OC1s (most of the OC2s were well ahead of me) and a couple of paddleboards, and then we moved on as a group. The 5 of them were clumped close together, 2 men and a woman in the canoes, 2 men on paddleboards. They were drafting off one another. I stayed off to their left, not benefiting, not getting involved.

The wind was coming down the lake. We were paddling toward the north end, and there was very little lee. I just bulled my way into the wind, using up my strength.

My left foot went numb quickly, and then the numbness moved up my leg. Not good for steering.
(By the time I was 1/2 into the race, I couldn't feel my leg below my knee and ultimately that became my biggest issue.) Very uncomfortable! It means I wasn't pushing on my left foot, and I was sitting awkwardly on my left side (to keep from flipping).... It means bad technique.

All the time I was thinking about how when this slog of a leg was done, I'd be turning with the wind and have to paddle with the waves I was now fighting. And I don't like surfing in a canoe. I feel unsteady and unsure.

Then I saw canoes coming toward me! Finally somebody had made the turn. Canoes came toward us. It didn't seem like they were surfing too much. I saw DougM&Sabine go past, closely followed by DougN in his single. Finally I saw the turn and made it after the other 3 OC1s (we'd left the paddleboards behind by this point).

(to be continued....)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dude, The first half mile was survival for everyone! I am never that close to the pack for that lone in an oc1 race, EVER! That means it was a hard slog for everyone. You did awesome, give yourself some credit!